Thursday, June 21, 2012

Attitudes Towards “Stay-At-Home Fathers”

The link below is from American Public Media’s “Marketplace” program.  It is entitled “Rock, paper, income: The life of a stay-at-home dad.”

I didn’t have any deep thoughts to share from listening to the interview.  I simply enjoy hearing about dedicated fathers.  I hope you enjoy it too.

The link below is from ABC’s Nightline and is entitled “Is Dad the New Mom? The Rise of Stay-At-Home Fathers.” 

 I’ve seen statistics elsewhere that fathers comprise only about 1-3% of all stay-at-home parents.  And that certainly jives with our family’s personal experience.  As a result, I think this article is overstating the “rise” of this family structure.  Indeed, the fact that Nightline is even focusing on it demonstrates the continuing novelty of having a dad who is so involved in his kids lives, let alone being their primary caregiver.  Nonetheless, I enjoy reading about fathers who are so devoted to and involved in their children’s upbringing. 

I thought one part of the Nightline story was particularly telling.  Towards the end of the article, a retired Navy vet (who now stays home with his four kids while his wife works as the CEO of a “big corporation”) was quoted as saying:

“My in-laws think I’m a bum and I’m fine because I worked, already had a career…And I say, ‘I am working.  If it were reversed, would you say your daughter is a bum?’ I’m a great father.  Try to respect that.” 

How tragic is that reaction this vet is experiencing?  I felt horrible that this gentleman is so disrespected--within his own extended family no less.  But his attitude also filled me with even greater respect for him.  It is tough enough to do the self-sacrificing work of full-time caregiving, but the job is even harder when people don’t appreciate your sacrifice and think you are a “bum.”

From personal experience, I think such misguided attitudes are common in our culture.  They seem to be based on three sad beliefs, which are suggested by this vet’s words. 

First, people think that “staying at home” with kids is a vacation.  One watches some Rachael Ray and eats snack foods all day while the kids entertain themselves.  Maybe that is how some depressed people spend their days, but not people who are dedicated to the raising of their kids and take the task seriously.  I don’t personally know any stay-at-home parents for whom that stereotype is true. 

The second sad belief underlying such misguided attitudes is that raising kids doesn’t require much parental involvement; consequently, devoting oneself full-time to the task is just a waste.  I don’t know where to even begin to comment on this particular belief.  Kids don’t just turn in to happy, productive people on their own or by accident.  Investing time and care in raising them is the highest calling, in my opinion.  As a Christian, I know that God values his children above anything else.  Devoting one’s time to child-rearing is a beautiful alignment of God’s values and the stewardship of one’s gifts.

The third sad belief is that the only worthwhile vocation is one for which one is paid.  Again, as a Christian, I flatly reject this worldly belief.  The market place determines which vocations receive financial compensation.  However, the market place is motivated primarily by self-interest and even greed.  Its values are not God’s values.  As a result, the market place’s determination of which vocations should receive financial compensation are not a proper reflection of their actual worth per godly values.

Job 15:18
What wise men have told, Not hiding anything received from their fathers.

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